India Celebrates Democracy, Kashmir Cries Hypocrisy

India wants to reap the benefits of Islamophobia from which the world is suffering…. the Indian government has to reconcile its own people to body bags coming from Kashmir…. If the Indian people were told the truth that Kashmiris don’t want to be with India, and the struggle here is sustained by them primarily…. the public opinion in India too would change. To not allow the public opinion to change, these lies about Pakistan-sponsored proxy war are told. For us, the Indian media is clearly a part of India’s military industry in Kashmir.
— Khurram Parvez, Scroll.in, July, 2016.

India, you will be celebrating your 70th year of Independence from British rule on August 15. All over the country all of you will be remembering the fallen, hoisting flags, and singing songs of freedom. Meanwhile in Indian-administered Kashmir — the largest militarized zone in the world — the Indian state and its military and paramilitary forces will continue to carry on with their sustained human rights abuses aimed at the regions indigenous population.

Many around the world often pose this question: Why is Indian civil society silent about its country’s brutalization of Kashmir civil society? It’s a very good question. Every freedom-loving Indian needs to ask it.

Perhaps nothing would convey patriotism better than chanting slogans that condemn your own country’s occupation of another. Why not? Instead of singing songs only about your own “freedom,” why not sing one acknowledging an occupied people’s desire to be free? Especially when it’s you they want to be free of.

Here’s one y’all might want to sing in solidarity with your Kashmiri brothers and sisters on Tuesday. It’s a take on the Hindi patriotic song Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo (O people of my country) that remembers Indian soldiers who died in the Sino-Indian War of 1962.

tiranga (Indian flag)
Firdaws (Paradise)
azad (free)
Azadi (freedom)
Holi (festival of colors)
Arnab Goswami (television news anchor)
lathis (truncheons)
Dardpora (‘Abode of Pain,’ is a hamlet situated in the northern edge of Indian-administered Kashmir, and is home to hundreds of widows, and ’half widows’ [women whose husbands have disappeared]).

The 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records declared Kashmir as the world’s “largest and most militarized territorial dispute.”

O Proud Patriots of India

O proud patriots of India, shout your slogans
This auspicious day belongs to a few of you,
Go hoist your beloved tiranga
But don’t forget, that in occupied Firdaws,
Tens of thousands have lost their lives
Give a thought to them
And remember that until Kashmir is Azad,
Thousands more won’t be returning home

O proud patriots of India, fill your eyes with tears
Remember the humanity of those whose only desire is to be free
Of you

You got your freedom, but deny Kashmiris theirs
They too will fight until their last breath
Their bodies coming out on the streets and no fear of death
Their eyes pierced with little lead pellets,
They stare at your hollow freedom with dissenting eyes
Remember that Kashmir’s struggle for Azadi will not cave, just like India’s never did

When your country celebrates so-called freedom,
Your troops are playing Holi (with their blood)
While you sit safely in your homes watching Arnab Goswami,
Kashmiris brave your guns, night raids and lathis
Young men, women and children come at your military,
With stones in their hands and freedom in their eyes
Remember that Kashmir’s struggle for Azadi will not cave, just like India’s never did

Unknown, unmarked mass graves, clandestine graveyards
Extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances
Dardpora’s widows and half-widows, All victims of state terrorism
The blood shed in Jammu and Kashmir, that blood is indigenous
Remember that Kashmir’s struggle for Azadi will not cave, just like India’s never did

Their bodies are drenched in blood, yet they brave your military
Countless cases of torture and sexual violence by the world’s largest democracy
Kashmir weeps at your hypocrisy
And in their continuing struggle, they tell one another, “We will live another day”
“Be strong, my beloved fellow Kashmiris”
“We’re going to get Azadi

A pair of “security” boots for every sixteen Kashmiris?
O how pathetic your Independence, India
Your occupation even made the Guinness Book of World Records,
How wonderful
Remember that Kashmir’s struggle for Azadi will not cave, just like India’s never did
Remember that Kashmir’s struggle for Azadi will not cave, just like India’s never did Azadi, Go India, go back
Azadi, Azadi, Azadi

Agar Firdaws ba roy-i zamin ast, hamin ast-u hamin ast-u hamin ast (If there is Paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.)
— Mughal Emperor Jahangir ([reign] 1605 – 1627) once said this about Kashmir.

img-813040810-0001 (1)The sang-bazan (stone pelters) of Kashmir, #11 in the series JatiIndia: Flags of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future.

According to Noam Chomsky, “Technology is basically neutral. It’s kind of like a hammer. The hammer doesn’t care whether you use it to build a house, or whether a torturer uses it to crush somebody’s skull.” One can probably say the same thing about Indian Democracy. That it’s fairly neutral. It’s kind of like the country’s flag. The tiranga doesn’t care whether you use it as a medium to communicate the truth about a state’s atrocities, or whether a Bollywood actress makes history by being the first woman ever to hoist it.

Jai Hind (Victory to India).

Please click on # links to view the series so far: jatiindia #s 10, 9, 8; jatiindia #7; jatiindia #s 6, 5; jatiindia #s 4, 3, 2; jatiindia #1

 

Zionutva: A Hate Story

Sandwiched between the months of June — which saw the 50th anniversary of Israel’s Palestine occupation — and August — the 71st anniversary of India’s Independence from British rule and India’s subsequent occupation of Kashmir — this July can perhaps be remembered as a month when two nationalist ideologies — Zionism and Hindutva — that have thrived on these two events came together, embraced, and merged into an occupying force that we might call, say, Zionutva.

July 4, 2017: a historic day, at least as far as occupiers’ histories go. The Ben Gurion International Airport air is suddenly enveloped in a megalomaniacal glow. Two exclusionary forces are about to come face-to-face and morph into one, as India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, disembarking from Air India One, becomes the first Indian prime minister to visit the “Holy Land” (minus Palestine.)

Modi plants a first hug on his counterpart Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, and the two-day occupier-fest is off to an auspicious start. Theirs is a shared history of atrocities that the Indian state and the state of Israel have committed on the lives, land, water and infrastructure of occupied Kashmiris and Palestinians, respectively. One more hug reinforces this injustice.

After the first hug, while they use all twenty fingers to shake hands, they look into each other’s eyes and say ugly somethings. At one point, Modi says, “What a great….” and then hesitates for a moment before finishing with “….honor.” Does he hesitate because what he really wanted to say was, “what a great day, meeting a fellow unpunished collective punisher!”?

The plot of this hate story revolves around portions of the speeches of the mis-leaders of India and Israel — Modi & Bibi — made on this historic occasion. Excerpts of those speeches follow, and below each hypocritical utterance, I have included real-world quotes with links to stories of the occupied.

Modi Bibi (2)

Perpetual Occupiers of the Perpetually Occupied

Bibi:

Aapka swagat hai mere dost [Welcome, my friend]…. we’ve been waiting for you a long time…. almost seventy years, in fact.

Kashmir…. a country occupied mainly by India and partially by Pakistan since 1947…. where struggles have continued for a long, long time, with the Kashmiri people fighting for the right to self determination that they were promised long years ago — almost seventy years ago now by the then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. A promise that has never been fulfilled, and in the mean time the face of Kashmir has changed…. the occupation by the Indian army has continued…. with horrific stories of the regular rape of women young and old; of young men being tortured; of disappeared bodies and disappeared people…. And, it’s virtually ignored by the world. I think one has to say that very bluntly…. Countries which are generally speaking in the good books of what is euphemistically called the International community — which is actually the United States of America and its International cronies — These countries and their atrocities are ignored.

— Tariq Ali in conversation with Journalist and Novelist Mirza Waheed, Global Empire – Kashmir: Blinding the People, 2016.

We receive you with open arms.

Defense, however, remained a key factor in the India-Israeli relationship. Israeli companies, led by government-owned aerospace giant Israel Aircraft Industries, have signed arms deals with India, totaling over $2.6 billion earlier this year.

— “India, Israel expand cooperation from defense to science, agriculture and technology,” CNBC, July 6, 2017.

We love India. We admire your culture, we admire your history….

“Barah sau saal ki gulami ki maansikta humein pareshan kar rahi hai [The slave mentality of 1,200 years is troubling us.]

(Narendra Modi said these words in his address to a joint session of Parliament on June 9, 2014, two weeks after he was sworn in as the prime minister of India. Here, instead of making the customary reference to India’s “years of slavery” under 200 years of British rule, Modi distorts history by taking it back by another thousand years when the country came under Muslim rule.)

…. your democracy, your commitment to progress. We view you as kindred spirits in our common quest….

Abbas is the darling of the so called International community. He is the Palestinian quisling…. who works closely with the Israeli occupation in the West Bank…. it’s almost as if they’re putting this in the face of people in Gaza and saying that, you will suffer…. you will be subjected to these inhuman conditions unless you collaborate with your occupiers the way Mahmoud Abbas does in the West Bank…. The idea is to prop up Abbas and to have a Western approved, Israeli backed Palestinian leadership in the form of Abbas. That’s what this is about.

— The Electronic Intifada, “Break the silence on Gaza with people power,” July 15, 2017.

State racism — the primacy of Hindu majoritarian will in state decisions — orders India’s rule in Kashmir. [It] merges neoliberal democracy with authoritarian practices. The government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian armed forces neutralize the Independent functioning of the judiciary, educational institutions, and the media in the name of national security, continuing what is in effect military governance.

— Angana P. Chatterji, The Militarized Zone, Kashmir The Case for Freedom, 2011.

…. to provide a better future for our peoples and for our world. [On a visit to the Mediterranean seashore, Modi and Bibi rolled up their trousers and waded barefoot in the waters of the Mediterranean while sipping “purified” sea water freshly harvested from a desalination plant on wheels — the so-called GalMobile — and toasting “to life…. this is really life.”]

Gaza is perhaps in its worst situation, yet…. You are talking about two hours of electricity a day…. What does that mean? You know, try to imaging life without clean water, because the water in Gaza is polluted…. There is no waste treatment in Gaza and raw sewage is being dumped into the Mediterranean…. This is on top of the devastation of the siege [2007.]

— The Electronic Intifada, Break the silence

Prime Minister, when I first met you at the United Nation three years ago, we agreed to break down the remaining walls….

We know that from the [International Court of Justice] to the Red Cross, it [the wall] has been described as illegal. We know of its disastrous impact on Palestinian farmers, villages, cities, families, schoolchildren, students and many others. We know that from Jenin to Bethlehem, through the concrete-split streets of East Jerusalem, the wall has become another element of Israel’s colonization of Palestine, one more link in the apartheid chain. The propaganda myths about security are intended to hide this reality but, like the wall itself, they are arguments full of holes.

— The Electronic Intifada, “Did Israeli apartheid wall really stop suicide bombings?,” January 10, 2014.

…. between India and Israel…. I believe in the success of our partnership because of the great sympathy between our peoples. The natural camaraderie between Indians and Israelis…. prime minister Modi, you’re a great leader of India….Your visit to Israel is a testament to that. Our two peoples have deeply held values….

When I was growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, there was a full scale armed uprising against Indian troops…. Kashmir is also the most militarized region in the world…. Some estimates put that we have a soldier [indian regular army, para-military and police] to every 16 or 17 civilians.

— Journalist and Novelist Mirza Waheed in conversation with Tariq Ali, Global Empire – Kashmir: Blinding the People, 2016.

Eman, 9, was killed in an airstrike alongside her two brothers Ibrahim, aged 13, and Essam, aged 4. They were killed when Israeli aircraft bombarded an apartment building in Gaza City’s central Rimal neighborhood. The Ammar family were hosting friends from the Jumaa family. In the same attack, and her 2 sons, were also killed. In total, 11 people died in this one attack.

— People Beyond Numbers, Remembering the Victims of Israeli Operation ‘Protective Edge’ on Gaza (which began on July 7, 2014.)

…. rooted in ancient cultures, yet we both seek to realize the promise of a better future…. I know that we can do even more, even better.

When people lose their fear of death, normally in history, they can more or less achieve anything, sooner or later.

— Tariq Ali, Blinding the People

You know, you’ve only been here a few hours…. you paid your respect to the tomb of the founder of our national movement [Zionism], Theodor Herzl.

In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country…. The four great powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.

— Lord Arthur Balfour, author of the 1917 Balfour Declaration that promised to support “The establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” Excerpted from the updated edition of Fateful Triangle by Noam Chomsky.

And, you’ve seen some of Israel’s cutting edge technology. We went to a greenhouse on a warm day, believe me it was a warm reception….

Omar Talib, a farmer who is seeing his source of livelihood threatened by the power crisis, told Al-Monitor, “I have been working in agriculture for more than 20 years. This is how I make ends meet. The power crisis has become a nightmare for farmers. We cannot operate our irrigation systems without electricity.”

— Al-Monitor, “Gaza’s power crisis cripples farmers,” June 28, 2017.

I have to confess to you that I’ve been inspired by prime minister Modi’s enthusiasm for yoga [Modi smiles]. To begin, he said to me you can start at a low level…. so, I’m starting at a low level [“Heh heh heh heh heh,” snickers Modi.] Here’s what we’re gonna do. When I do relaxing Talasana pose [“Heh heh heh” — a little softer snicker] and, in the morning I’ll turn my head to the right [“Heh heh” — even softer], India is the first democracy that I’ll see [“Heh ha ha ha ha ha” — now, full-blown laughter]. And when prime minister Modi does a relaxing pose of a Vasistha Asana [“Ah heh heh heh”], and he turns his head to the left, Israel is the first democracy that you can see…. India and Israel are two sister democracies.

Right now, as we speak, people have been coming on the streets since the 9th of July…. knowing they’re going to be shot at. That the para-military will shoot to kill. And yet, thousands have come on to the streets in defiance…. This is a very, very political statement, that we will not agree to this…. This is an indigenous mass uprising. Pakistan is not behind [it.] Yes, parts of the Pakistani security establishment have nursed…. terror groups, and there has been a blowback…. And some of these groups, their main currency is the jihad in Kashmir. But that does not take away anything from the fact that these are Kashmiri boys and girls and young men and women and old people [who are being targeted]…. they [Indian troops] raid villages at night just to harass people…. windows are broken… young men taken away, beaten up, tortured.…

— Mirza Waheed, Blinding the People

We have accomplished great things…. I have to say that we also face common challenges, and the first of it is to defeat the forces of terror that rampage through the world [Modi nods] and threaten both our counties. So, we must stand together in this battle…. prime minister we share a bond of democracy and creativity, a deep respect for the past, a boundless optimism for the future….

We live at a moment of great despair and also simultaneously great hope…. Right now from the darkened homes of Gaza…. the greatest hope of people there is the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement…. It’s much less than is needed but it’s growing and it’s something that gives people hope and is immune to the kind of Institutional complicity that has brought us to this point.… It’s up to us to challenge the Institutional complicity and silence.

— The Electronic Intifada, Break the silence

@netanyahu: There’s nothing like going to the beach with friends! @narendramodi 5:00 AM – Jul 6, 2017

Modi:

My visit celebrates the strength of centuries-old links between our societies….

If the Zionists’ dreams are realized — if Palestine becomes a Jewish State and it will gladden us almost as much as our Jewish friends — they, like the Mohammedans [Look at the Mohammedans. Mecca to them is a sterner reality than Delhi or Agra] would naturally set the interests of their Holyland above those of their Motherland in America and Europe and in case of war between their adopted country and the Jewish State, would naturally sympathise with the latter…. So with the Hindus, they being the people, whose past, present and future are most closely bound with the soil of Hindustan as Pitribhu (ancestral land), as Punyabhu (the land of his religion), they constitute the foundation, the bedrock, the reserved forces of the Indian state. Therefore even from the point of Indian nationality, must ye, O Hindus, consolidate and strengthen Hindu nationality.

— V. D. Savarkar, author of HINDUTVA, What Is a Hindu,1923.

Friends, the people of Israel have built a nation on democratic principles….

While the Zionist project fulfilled its dream of creating “a Jewish homeland” in Palestine in 1948, the process of ethnic cleansing and displacement of Palestinians never stopped. During the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, known as the Naksa, meaning “setback”, Israel occupied the remaining Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and continues to occupy them until today. While under the UN partition plan Israel was allocated 55 percent, today it controls more than 85 percent of historic Palestine.

—Al Jazeera, “The Naqba did not start or end in 1948,” May 23, 2017.

Your heroes are an inspiration for the younger generations….

Apparently, half a dozen of fantasy terror camps have popped up throughout Israel and the West Bank, offering tourists from across the globe a chance to pretend-kill terrorists, who look suspiciously like Palestinian Arabs, only for $115 per person.

— Carbonated.TV, “Anti-Terrorism Fantasy Camps Become Tourist Attraction In Israel,” July 2017.

I thank prime minister Netanyahu and Mrs Sara Netanyahu for opening their home to me today. The fullness of their warmth and affection has evoked a feeling of home away from home.

I Protest, Against The Things You Done!
I Protest, Fo’ A Mother Who Lost Her Son!
I Protest, I Will Throw Stones An’ Neva Run!
I Protest, Until My Freedom Has Come!
I Protest, Fo’ My Brother Who’s Dead!
I Protest, Against The Bullet In His Head!
I Protest, I Will Throw Stones An’ Neva Run!
I Protest, Until My Freedom Has Come!

— The chorus of the song ‘I Protest’ by Kashmiri rapper MC Kash.

It reminds me of our own ethos of hospitality and welcome.

India asks us, ‘Why do you throw stones?’ No one asks, Who burned your house down?’

— Kashmiri youth, tortured in detention, January 2011.

Yad Vashem is a reminder of the unspeakable evil inflicted generations ago. It is also a tribute to your unbreakable spirit to rise above the depths of drudgery, overcome hatred and forge ahead to build a vibrant democratic nation.

Israel…. has killed dozens of people in Gaza since the [2014] ceasefire. A majority of them have been unarmed Palestinians demonstrating near the boundary fence against the siege…. to show their humanity…. teenagers usually are shot dead in cold blood by Israeli soldiers…. sitting in watchtowers…. or, they have been fishermen at sea…. trying to feed their families, shot at by the Israeli navy. But somehow there’s no outcry about Israel’s relentless violations of the ceasefire.

— The Electronic Intifada, Break the silence

Yad Vashem tells us that those who believe in humanity and civilized values….

The health system in Gaza which has been inadequate for decades…. has been in a deepening crisis for months…. In May, the Red Cross warned that the health system in Gaza was on the brink of systemic collapse…. Tara Ismail Bakhit…. a toddler, was the sixteenth person to die in recent weeks, because the Palestinian Authority had refused to approve a medical referral…. The Palestinian Authority and Israel are using sick children as a weapon against Hamas. Let’s remember, of course, if Abbas refuses to approve these treatments, Israel as the occupier is required under the Geneva Convention…. to provide medical care and life saving services to the people in Gaza.

— The Electronic Intifada, Break the silence

….must come together and defeat it at all costs. As such we must resolutely oppose the evils of terrorism, radicalism and violence that plague our times.

In sections of the Indian press, every night they will broadcast these…. experts in demonizing the Kashmiri Muslim as a jihadist, as an Islamist…. more so since the election of Mr. Modi…. There has been violence against Indian muslims…. It is not a creation of the Modi government, but it has increased to very dangerous levels where people are literally lynched in broad daylight on mere suspicion of having eaten…. beef…. Kashmiris right now see the response of the Indian state. They can’t separate it from the dispensation in Delhi. They see it as a Hindutva government. As a Hindu nationalist government punishing Kashmiri muslims for rising up against it.

—Mirza Waheed, Blinding the People

I for I, I with I. Here, I’m not using the popular word eye for an eye, I mean India’s I, Israel’s I….

I do not remember reading or seeing an instance where a…. a modern nation-state has willfully, systematically shot at people to blind them. More that 500 people have these little lead pellets in their eyes…. that is not an accident. That is not a crowd control tactic gone wrong.

—Mirza Waheed, Blinding the People

We also want to put in place a robust security partnership to respond to shared threats to our peace, stability and prosperity.

…. All indications are that in Kashmiri civil society dissent will not abate: it is not externally motivated but historically compelled. Repressive regimes tend to overlook that freedom struggles are not about the moralities of violence verses non-violence, but reflect a desire to be free. The oppressors forget that the greater the oppression, the more fervent the resistance. Violence is apt to reproduce itself in cycles.

— Angana P. Chatterji, The Militarized Zone, Kashmir The Case for Freedom, 2011.

I am very, very thankful to Bibi because vehicle which I saw today, particularly the natural calamities, when people are suffering from the drinking water this is the very unique type of vehicle which can provide drinking water and how to do the process….

Here’s the critical point. This is not a natural disaster [Gaza’s power crisis]. This is a policy choice by Israel to do this to two million people…. the so-called International community are supporting…. there is nothing about this in the New York Times…. on CNN…. on Democracy Now, for heaven’s sake. There is total silence….

— The Electronic Intifada, Break the silence

@narendramodi Thank you my friend, PM @netanyahu for the signed photo, your kind words, amazing hospitality & passion towards #IndiaIsraelFriendship. 9:03 AM – Jul 6, 2017

In the bitter chill of winter shivers his naked body
Whose skill wraps the rich in royal shawls.

— Muslim poet and philosopher of Kashmiri origin, Iqbal, 1921.

The Salina Resistance #Indivisible

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Donald: Hey, Roger! You agree with me, don’t you, that the climate thing is a Chinese hoax and that Obama and Iran founded ISIS? Roger: Sir, let me just say that it’s been proven: I agree with you 97% of the time!

PersistThe Salina Resistance is part of the Indivisible Movement, and we resist the Republican assault on civil rights, on economic rights, on the Earth, and on decent, respectful relations with human beings around the world @salinaresist.

IMG_3198A bland ribbon-cutting ceremony turned very quickly into an impromptu town hall, minus signs, I might add, as seen in this picture where a cop asks one of our fellow resisters to put it down. Friday, Feb. 24, 200 E. Iron Ave., Salina, KS.

ScanI tried multiple times to ask Marshall a question regarding immigrant rights, but he continued to evade my immigrant’s eyes, so I sent this letter to the Salina Journal.

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photo credit: Big Bluestem Rapid Responders, McDowell Creek, KS.

“Protesters gather in front of Rep. Marshall’s Salina office,” Salina Post, March 23, 2017. 

“The gathering was put on by the Indivisible Movement, according to Christopher Renner, a demonstrator from Manhattan. About 35 people from Salina and neighboring communities came to Marshall’s office, located at 200 E Iron, to express their concern with Marshall’s support of President Trump’s bill…..Participants urged Marshall to “vote no.”

IMG_3218Our group’s first meeting, April 8, 2017.

IMG_3227First District Congressman Marshall’s HQ, Salina, Kansas, April 10, 2017. @RepMarshall says Salina, the “capital” of his district, isn’t on his recess “listening tour.” So, we decided to have our own town hall and invite him.

IMG_3228“Town hall REJECTION,” Salina Journal, April 11, 2017. @RepMarshall will visit 9 towns that add up to half our population but not us?

“Without a doubt, he [Roger Marshall] will be back in Salina to do ‘another’ listening tour stop, but his dance card is already full on this tour.” — Press secretary for Marshall, Eric Pahls.

“We have an administration, and apparently a Congress, that seems hell-bent on turning back important regulations about the air we breathe and the water we drink, and that’s another part of the urgency [for a town hall meeting in Salina.]” — David Norlin, The Salina Resistance.

IMG_3234“Congressman Marshall met with anger, tears, at Junction City town hall,” The Daily Union, April 14, 2017.

“The Congressman was also confronted with comments he made in a March 3 article in STAT — a Boston Globe Media publication — in which Marshall said ‘just like Jesus said, the poor will always be with us. There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.'”

“Klugasherz, who returned to the mic as a constituent, recited the quote verbatim, then was brought to tears as she looked Marshall in the eye.”

“‘I grew up in a family that was extremely poor. My family benefitted from SNAP and EBT benefits,’ she said. ‘I probably would not be standing in front of you today had I not had those … The problem is that people in poverty, much like you all know, are not there by choice. And the rhetoric that we use to describe these people in poverty — that they’re feckless, that they’re broken, that they want to be there — is nothing but damning to the help we are trying to provide these people … what will you change to ensure that that rhetoric is no longer used?'”

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PRESS RELEASE

Salina, April 27, 2017 – Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Great Bend, announced Thursday he will hold a town hall meeting at The Salina Chamber of Commerce on May 9, despite failing to commit to a Salina event during his recent listening tour.

The announcement came the same day The Salina Journal reported that Salina Resistance, a group affiliated with the Indivisible network, invited Marshall and Kansas senators to a citizen-led town hall scheduled for June 1.

Salina Resistance set the People’s Town Hall to converse with representatives in Washington about matters of concern including health care, the environment, and the national budget.

On the campaign trail, Marshall said, “You can’t successfully deliver more than 5,000 babies and not listen to people.” Salina Indivisible group notes that 88,000 Kansans voted against Marshall in November who are not being addressed or consulted by the congressman.

The group is disappointed that Marshall has opted instead for a meeting under his design and control, one held at 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, making it difficult for working people and parents with school-age children to attend.

The Salina Resistance’s June 1 event will proceed as planned as an authentic forum for discussing the issues, Marshall or no Marshall.

“We’re happy we could nudge him into starting to make good on his campaign promises. It’s just sad that he only did so out of fear of embarrassing news coverage. But that’s what Indivisible understands: politicians care more about bad press than about representing the people,” group member James Talley said.

The Salina Resistance’s People’s Town Hall is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 1 at the Salina Ambassador Hotel, 1616 W. Crawford St., Salina.

Meanwhile, since Marshall doesn’t support the federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions….

20170430_100129….some of us from The Salina Resistance board the bus for the April 29, People’s Climate March in DC to resist Marshall’s climate agenda.

“The simple fact is nobody cares more about the land and the environment then the Kansas farmer. Instead of allowing bureaucrats to dictate policy, Congress needs to protect farmers, fishermen, hunters and those generating energy from an unruly Environmental Protection Agency.”— Roger Marshall.

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Our interactive Peace Spiral was part of PCM’s Circles of Resistance art project, where folks reached out to a friend or a fellow marcher, and shared their, or their community’s stories, struggles, solutions and visions for a better tomorrow. These nested spirals called for pairs of people to approach from opposite sides, meet in the center, share their stories and walk past each other following each other’s steps back to the exit. 

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“Major flooding across southeastern Missouri led to three deaths, more than 100 evacuations and 135 rescues across the state over the weekend.” The Weather Channel, May 2, 2017. These pictures were taken on Sunday, April 30, from the bus window on our way back from the historic DC march, emphasizing that our fight for climate justice has only just begun.

RogAndDon@RepMarshall insults voters @ Salina t-hall. Says we wrongly think we’re mad @ him. We’re really just mad at Brownback. Also sore losers.

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FullSizeRender 2“Marshall fends off health care questions,” Salina Journal, May 9, 2017. Watch vimeo of town hall here.

“Marshall Meets Large Salina Crowd.” KSAL.com, May 9, 2017.

18301549_1006552249480504_3825464313072715940_n“A few of us went to protest Kansas’ first district congressman Dr. Roger Marshall as he arrived to read to Head Start kids at Heartland school in Salina, Kansas.” Ron Fent, The Salina Resistance.

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18402934_1006552252813837_5099414987853267606_n“Land Institute founder and President Emeritus Dr. Wes Jackson told him to distance himself from President Trump while he had a chance.” Watch vimeo of protest here.

PRESS RELEASE

People’s Town Hall comes June 1, 7:00 pm to Ambassador Hotel, Salina, KS

Congress members invited, not yet accepted

The Salina Resistance, a local grassroots organization affiliated with the national #Indivisible movement, has renewed its invitation to the Kansas Congressional delegation, including Representative Roger Marshall, Senator Jerry Moran, and Senator Pat Roberts, to attend a People’s Town Hall. The event will be held Thursday, June 1, 7:00 p.m., during a Congressional District Work Period, at the Ambassador Hotel, 1616 W Crawford, Salina. The group is inviting constituents, wherever they live in Kansas, to come and let their members of Congress know their wishes and demands.

Thus far, the Congressmen have refused to attend or answer, at a time when critical issues are being decided far from the people they represent. Three chairs will nonetheless be reserved for the members, and a record of their constituents’ wishes will be made available to them.

An open microphone will insure opportunities for anyone to speak, each with a 4-minute time limit. Some constituents already plan more creative statements of their concern, including music, poetry, art graphics, and others.

Anticipated topics include among others health care; education; military buildup and costs; agriculture; climate; women’s rights; non-discrimination; economic justice; racial, ethnic, religious diversity; and immigration. Estimated time frame is 7:00-9:00 p.m. Those interested can check in at facebook.com/salinaresistance.

March 8, 2017, Yet Another Day Without a Dalit or Adivasi Woman

See also at: CountercurrentsCounterPunch

We must create a society in which women – including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, [Dalit and Adivasi women], disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.

–Statement from Women’s March’s Unity Principles, with my addition in square brackets.

 

we are one red (1)In today’s India, there are women who win some and lose some while others lose some and then lose some more.

Babasaheb Ambedkar once said, “Caste is not just a division of labor, it is a division of laborers.” On March 8th, 2017, International Women’s Day and A Day Without a Woman when we wear red in solidarity, let us also raise our voices in support of the daily struggles of our Dalit and Adivasi sisters, who are victims of the Hindu caste system. The fates of all Indian women are intertwined, so let us remind ourselves that casteism—a form of racism because it discriminates on the grounds of a person’s birth and descent—still determines a woman’s place in society. India is not just a land of gender inequality; it is a land that sanctions the division of women. Until and unless we purge caste from our hearts, our struggle can never be one.

 

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Out of the Shadow of Caste and Into Our Consciousness

Nobody is me. There are many like me. My life has no worth in my country’s or the world’s popular consciousness and my violators roam freely. I am a Dalit, an Adivasi, and no upper-caste hands hold signs with our names.

I live and die and am reborn in their shadow. This soil was once my fertile soil and I walked upon it. Now their collective usurpation has replaced it with climate change and concrete. And I lie upon it, my feet pointing up at their mind’s gods, waiting to be recognized as a victim of their discrimination. My hands’ actions contradict my dignity and humanity. These are not my arms, but some upper-caste’s other two arms. A mechanical bonus pair, like the Hindu goddesses. A surplus, to be manipulated any which way. My fate is as old as the Hindu scriptures that gave me these wretched arms, and their usurpers have evolved. My once-sympathetic shudra comrades, born of purusha’s feet are now the post-1990s neo-brahmins that stomp on my assertive words of equality with neo-violence.

I show up sometimes as the spirit of unity and solidarity in Declaration of Empathy petitions, but I am still the more than 300,000 defeated hearts of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which failed to recognize me as a victim of descent-based discrimination. Maybe my place is at the back of those ‘I Am’ signs, scribbled in invisible ink: Nobody is Me. There Are Many Like Me.

 

 

Fifteen Years After the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom, the Fight for Accountability and Justice Continues

See also at: Countercurrents

gujarat-3JatiIndia: Flags of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future. Gujarat in the crosshairs of right-wing Hindu nationalism.

Salim Khan, a Muslim driver was burnt alive after a message was passed on the police wireless that a Muslim driver was coming that way. On the night of February 28, when people were attacked in Vatwa, all they could see was heads and more heads. Swords were being waved in the air, shots were fired by privately owned guns. “Tab hame malum pada ki hamara Allah ke seva koi nahin” [“Then we realized that none but Allah is on our side”], one witness said. The crowd had only one intention: Musalmanon ko khatam karo! [Finish off the Muslims!] And throughout, innocent people were killed.

— From an inquiry into the carnage in Gujarat by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) fighting for justice for the victims of the violence in Gujarat.

If someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is. If I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.

—Narendra Modi, then Gujarat Chief Minister, in response to a Reuters interview eleven years after the carnage, when asked whether he regretted the violence.

It’s 15 years now and justice to some extent has been done compared to other communal and targeted pogroms. Some of the powerful perpetrators have been punished and the struggle to establish command responsibility continues.

—Teesta Setalvad, human rights activist, secretary of CJP and author of “Foot Soldier of the Constitution – A Memoir,” in response to my question regarding justice for the victims of the carnage in Gujarat and their surviving families and friends.

February 27-28, 2017 marked the fifteenth anniversary of the 2002 Gujarat genocidal pogrom in which, according to CJP’s tally, as many as 1926 people lost their lives in violence that erupted after the Godhra train tragedy in which 59 people—mostly kar sevaks (right-wing nationalist volunteers)—were burnt alive. They were among commuters on the Sabarmati Express returning from the Ram temple site in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. That site had been controversial ever since December 6, 1992, when the Babri Masjid, a 16th century mosque, was demolished by a mob of Hindus to make way for the temple.

Since then, that site has become a focal point for the riling-up of right-wing Hindu nationalism. And the pogrom that followed the 2002 train attack was a release of pent-up hate that was looking for an excuse to explode.

The bid for power by the right-wing had begun long before, in the 1920s. The BJP (the current ruling party) is an affiliate of a cultural guild known as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which was established in 1925. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal (the youth wing of the VHP) are also affiliated with the RSS and along with the BJP itself were responsible for unleashing the carnage in Gujarat in 2002. The VHP have been trailblazers in the campaign to construct a temple dedicated to Rama on the site of the demolished Babri mosque. And a construction of a “grand” temple remains very much part of the BJP agenda today.

Gujarat, the state that birthed and raised the guru of non-violence, M. K. Gandhi—who himself was assassinated by a Hindu extremist—is not new to communal violence. The state’s history is steeped in it. For example, an incident during a 1969 pogrom “brings out the depth of animosity against the Muslims,” according to CJP: “A young Muslim, enraged by the destruction of his property said he would take revenge. Upon this the crowd seized him, showered blows on him, and tried to force him to shout Jai Jagannath (a Hindu slogan). Staying firm, the youth refused even if that meant death. To this, someone in the crowd responded that he might indeed be done away with. Wood from broken shops was collected, a pyre prepared in the middle of the road, petrol sprinkled on the pyre as well as on the youth, and he was set alight with ruthless efficiency. What is remarkable is that there was no resistance from any Hindu. The wails of the Muslim inhabitants of the area were drowned in the celebration of the incident by the Hindus.”

Between 1961 and 1971, 799 incidents of communal violence were recorded in Gujarat, with 1969 shouldering the biggest toll of riots. And since then, communal violence has erupted in the state many times. In just the years 1987 to 1991, 106 incidents were recorded. For most of that time Modi was serving as the general secretary of the BJP, and it was around then that the Ram Janmabhoomi (Rama’s birthplace) campaign took center stage in Gujarat, aiming to to construct the Mandir (temple) at the site. It is believed that the largest contingent of men, women, and youth responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya had come from Gujarat.

The ideology of Hindutva (Hinduness) is at the core of the RSS and its actions. And thanks to RSS and the other fanatical organizations that surround it, this ideology has penetrated every sphere of society—women, education, slums, youth, tribals, farmers, publishing, and more.

Narendra Modi, himself an RSS pracharak (volunteer) was the Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. The BlP first came to power in Gujarat in the mid-nineties, amid a campaign of hate against the state’s minority communities. Literature included fliers proclaiming, “India is a country of Hindus…. Our religion of Rama and Krishna is pious”; anti-Christian propaganda; penetration into tribal areas; and training camps espousing hatred, distribution of Trishuls, swords and other weapons at religious functions.

According to CJP, “Sustained and systematic efforts were made by organizations like the BJP and its Sangh Parivar [RSS family of organizations] affiliates to communalize Gujarati society, through large-scale distribution of hate literature and other means. Hinduism was given more and more aggressive interpretations with a conscious design to promote a feeling among Hindus that they, the majority community, were being treated unjustly through appeasement of Muslims by various vested interests. The view that Muslims were fundamentalist, anti-national, and pro-Pakistan was systematically promoted. In some cases, Hindus were even exhorted to take up arms to defend their interests.”

gujarat-1JatiIndia: Flags of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future. Hundreds of Mosques and Dargahs were destroyed in the riots. 

The Hindutva campaign reached its zenith with the 2002 pogrom. Between February 28 and March 2, sixteen of Gujarat’s twenty-four districts were engulfed in unspeakable mob violence unleashed upon Muslims—children, babies, women, men, and elderly alike. Mobs of five to ten thousand people armed with swords, trishuls, lathis, agricultural implements, stones, acid bulbs, bottles, petrol bombs, and burning cloth balls were let loose on helpless residents. In tearful testimonies to the eight-member Concerned Citizen’s Tribunal, riot survivors recounted incidents such as these:

Nahi, aaj to upar se order aaya ke aaj tumhari jaan bachane ki nahi hai [No, today we have orders from above that you are not to be saved], one witness testified that a policeman, KK Mysorewala, clearly told her.

Many witnesses testified that when out of distress they screamed, Allah! Allah! they were taunted by the attackers, who said, “No, say Jai Sri Ram!”

The mob had started breaking windows. They threw burning tires inside and the women inside would catch them and throw them out. In fact the witness’ hands were singed.

They caught hold of innocent children and sliced them up. They were pulled out of their mothers arms.

Most of the dead bodies were charred or mutilated beyond recognition and an overwhelming majority of the survivors did not manage to have access to the bodies of their relatives in order to perform the last rites in a dignified manner.

Between 5 and 6 p.m., when the mob was at the height of its frenzy, many of our women were first raped and then doused in kerosene and petrol and burnt. I saw them doing this.

Ehsan Jafri, [a parliamentarian] who was clearly a specific target, allowed himself to be dragged out of his own house…for 45 minutes, he was brutally dismembered and then finally decapitated. He was stripped, paraded naked, and asked to say, Vande Mataram! and Jai Shri Ram! He refused. His fingers were chopped off and he was paraded around in the locality, badly injured.

So, where does justice and accountability stand today, exactly fifteen years later?

gujarat-2JatiIndia: Flags of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future. Artwork includes surviving victims of the carnage at various refugee camps.

Teesta Setalvad forwarded me a conviction sheet put together for the anniversary by CJP, titled Accounting for the Dead – A Battle Half Won. Here’s part of what it said:

CJP’s Major exercise to Commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Gujarat genocide has been to Account for the Dead and Missing to end for once and for all the Falsification of Figures by the State. Once Compiled we shall seek through Opposition Members of Parliament that the Figures on the Record of Parliament are also Corrected. Our Tally shows that as many as 1926 Lives were Lost in the Reprisal Violence that broke out after the Godhra Tragedy from February 28, 2002 onwards.

There is a calculated design to deny every aspect of the Violence, the Facts behind the Crimes, the Conspiracy, Planning etc.

The Zakia Jafri [wife of slain parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri] Case that seeks, for the first time in criminal jurisprudence to establish criminal and administrative culpability for the mass crimes that broke up in Gujarat is still pending having charted an arduous course from the Police, to the Gujarat High Court, down to the Magistrate’s Court and now is being heard in the Gujarat High Court. The perverse attack of State Agencies on CJP and it’s office bearers Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand have been [in] direct proportion to the furtherance of this judicial exercise: an attempt to establish for the first time in Indian History a Chain of Command Responsibility for the Mass Crimes that broke out in the state from February 28, 2002 and were not contained until May 5-6, 2002 when KPS Gill was sent by then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to oversee the law and order situation.

The Gulberg Massacre Verdict dated June 17, 2016 delivered by Judge PB Desai however discards that the Gulberg Massacre was part of any conspiracy. As stated by Tanvirbhai Jafri it was as if 12-15,000 strong mob had gathered “to have chai and smaosa” that day!

They [the victims and witnesses] are threatened and induced to retract testimonies by perpetrators and the henchmen of the state machinery that has been thrice elected to power with perpetrators now also holding sway in Delhi.

The Perpetrators in the face of those in Power or those part of allied/sister organisations of the Hindutva Right who enjoy Political Patronage have even used, and continue to use the Criminal Underworld to issue threats and offer inducements.

An estimated 400 girls and women were subject to brute gender violence; even the state of Gujarat has been forced to admit to 176 women being brutally assaulted. No reparation has been offered to women and girls or their families. Over 428 persons are officially admitted as missing since the 2002 carnage, the remains of 226 not yet traced and thus denied a dignified burial and last rites. At least 270 places of cultural and religious importance for the Muslim minority were destroyed: barely 40 have been since rebuilt, not by a repentant state, but by the community itself.

Police witnesses have stated in their testimonies that the mob was huge enough, nearing 4,500-5,000. Injured and traumatised eye-witnesses have said that it was closer 15,000 strong. That the mob was also shouting slogans like ‘Miyaon ne kapo, maro,” [Cut and kill the Muslims] is also part of the record.

The panchnamas of the site reveal how the embers were allowed to burn, undoused at Gulberg society for three days after the attack, ensuring that any forensic evidence behind the killings is properly destroyed. When survivors buried the charred remains of their loved ones at the Kalandari Masjid Kabrastan on March 3, 2002, these bodies had been reduced to ashes.

Citizens for Justice and Peace’s single most significant achievement has been the convictions, at the first stage of as many as 157 perpetrators (of which 142 were to Life Imprisonment) in over a dozen major criminal trials related to the Gujarat Genocidal pogrom of 2002. In appeal at the High Court, 19 of these have been since acquitted. CJP plans to challenge these further in the Supreme Court.

There has been no expression of Remorse for the Perpetrated Violence of 2002 either by the State Government or the Party it represents, Nationally.

In the last 10 months, the Gujarat police and administration has made several attempts to threaten, humiliate, and implicate Teesta Setalvad in a number of cooked up cases and even held out threats of impending arrest. The attempt is to divert the CJP secretary’s attention from her legal aid work to enforced self-defence. A price that human rights defenders must be prepared to pay.

Many thanks to Teesta Setalvad and CJP for their unwavering struggle for justice and reparations for the victims and the survivors of the cowardly attack on the Muslim communities of Gujarat in 2002. Please visit CJP, Sabrang and Khoj to learn more about Teesta and Javed’s work.

The Indomitable Teesta Under Attack….Again

See also at Countercurrents, CounterPunch

# 7 in the series JatiIndia: A Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future

teesta-1In this JatiIndia flag, caste is represented by the victims of Modi and his Hindu nationalists in Gujarat, the present by the face of the indomitable Teesta, and the future by the nation’s Constitution, which will remain with us, intact, thanks to the efforts of Teesta and many others like her.

For more than a quarter century, journalist/activist Teesta Setalvad has worked tirelessly to ensure that India’s Constitution serves the people. Her most well-known work involved exposing, through her group Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), the atrocities committed by Hindu extremists in Gujarat in 2002. As part of its work seeking justice for the victims of that pogrom, CJP has continued its efforts to have criminal charges filed against Prime Minister Modi for his role in encouraging the atrocities in his then-role as Gujarat Chief Minister.

Now Teesta and her husband/coworker Javed Anand are being brought up on charges themselves for allegedly violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The charges, forcefully denied by Teesta and Javed, were clearly meant as retaliation for their pursuit of justice for Gujarat, among other grassroots issues.

The usual actions taken against those accused of FCRA violations are not criminal charges but revocation of licenses to receive foreign funds and, potentially, fines. Indeed, two of Teesta’s organizations were among 20,000 NGOs, largely human-rights groups, who had their licenses revoked in 2015-16. Another prominent Modi critic who lost her license, Shabnam Hashmi, told The Telegraph, “This government’s actions are second only to Emergency-era intolerance. We have no other option but to fight it out.”

That sweeping persecution of rights groups has now been followed by this month’s harsher prosecution targeting Teesta and Javed. Modi’s men cannot be allowed to get away with burying the past, with punishing those who have exposed his crimes. Proud patriots, go out there on the streets—not just on Republic Day but every day—and wave those flags. No, not one symbolic flag, but many, each with a different face of exclusion at the heart of it, where the Ashoka Chakra used to be.

Let’s see a citizen-sea waving faces of citizen-exclusion. Faces of those who have paid and are continuing to pay the ultimate price for confronting power with truth at various times in the country’s history. Faces resisting religious and economic fundamentalism and asserting their human right to dignity, inclusion, equality and justice—the stuff we twice-borns take so much for granted.

In the country I call JatiIndia, numerous atrocities are committed daily. The time has come to replace monocrop patriotism with a more diverse one because there is no one symbolic flag in which to pack these atrocities in. Don’t buy into the maya that the state cares about each and every one of you equally. It doesn’t. The state is not there for you. Rather, it’s out to get you. Especially if your fight is a fight for justice and equality.

Please read about JatiIndia #s 6 through 1 here, here and here, and see corresponding images below:

image2a pellet-gun victim, Kashmir

image1Tabasum and Galib Guru

Lingaram KodopiLingaram Kodopi

Shaista Hameed and Danish FarooqShaista Hameed and Danish Farooq

Vinay Sirohi with his wifeVinay Sirohi with his wife

RohithRohith Vemula

11/8: America’s Got President & India’s Got No Cash

See also at: Countercurrents, CounterPunch, Mvprogressives

img_3147Misfortune Stuffed Chapatis (recipe follows at end)

It was about 8:00 on the morning of November 9 in Mumbai, India. I sat down with the internet to talk with my husband Stan in Kansas, where it was 7:30 pm November 8. Like many other now-shell-shocked Americans, he was watching what we thought would be the finally-final episode of America’s Got President. The look on his face said that even at that early hour, things were whirling into new territory.

Indeed, I found myself time-traveling—in a very “Hindoo” sort of way—when at that moment, my sister brought my attention to a headline on the front page of that morning’s Times of India. It read, “Wonder Fish Chanakya in Chennai Predicts Donald Trump Victory.” The article explained what had happened the previous day: “A fish in Chennai has thrown its weight behind Donald Trump. The event was organized by [a] Chennai-based NGO… Two boats bearing pictures of Trump and Hillary and carrying fish feed were released into the tank. Incredibly, the fish picked Trump’s boat on seven occasions… founder-secretary A J Hariharan said they wanted to capitalize on the curiosity surrounding the presidential race to raise awareness of malaria.”

And, wonder of wonders, much to liberal-horror, the soothsaying of “Wonder Fish,” just like that of Michael Moore, was coming true even as Stan and I were talking. (Unlike Chanakya’s fishy wonderings, Moore’s prediction of a Trump victory was based on well-founded calculations; on the other hand, Moore raised no awareness of malaria.)

However, people living in the Indian countryside were not waking up that morning with “Wonder Fish Chanakya” on their minds. Far from it.

Notebandi

The previous evening, coincidentally just before polls opened on the U.S. East Coast, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi had declared that two denominations of the country’s currency, the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, would no longer be legal tender. (The notes, worth approximately $7.50 and $15.00 at current exchanges rates, accounted for 86 percent of the total cash value in circulation at the time.) Indians had until December 30 to exchange or deposit their notes, but there was far from enough new currency in the banks or ATMs to meet demand.

According to a January Hindustan Times article, “Though cash situation is better, queues can still be seen outside several ATM kiosks, primarily due to withdrawal restrictions — Rs 4,500 per day and Rs 24,000 a week.”

This out-of-the-blue “demonetization”—known in Hindi as notebandi (bandi means shutdown)—was ostensibly a strategy to target corruption, black money and terrorism, but it was actually a reckless plunge toward Modi’s wildly unrealistic vision of a “cashless” Indian economy.

The idea of a cashless economy is going to be a hard sell in a country where for most people, there’s already precious little cash to be had, where only around 30% of the population have access to financial institutions, where majority depend on hard-cash transactions for their hand-to-mouth existence, where more than 300,000 farmers have committed debt-induced suicide, and where the richest 1% own 58% of the country’s wealth.

Under a new program introduced by the Indian government, by early 2015, 125 million new bank accounts had been opened (95% of which were opened with public banks.) Three months later around 72% of the accounts showed zero balance.

As one slum dweller named Priya once told me, “What else is there for us to do? We have to simply survive till the next day. That’s all.” It is folks like Priya, who were already being crushed under the weight of subsidized state negligence via badly targeted economic policies, who have been hit the hardest. This move will simply add another layer of hardship in the lives of India’s hungry children, women, men, farmers, landless laborers, daily-wage earners. For anyone living in india’s villages, the state handing them a digital Hindu-god-like transaction gizmo is like rubbing salt in their layered wounds.

As I sit here writing this piece, Stan brings my attention to an article by Steve Coll in The New Yorker, who is also drawing parallels between what happened in India and the United States on November 8.

Coll says that he recently traveled through three cities in India, and he is right in pointing out that the general feeling among Indian urbanites is that even though the introduction of notebandi might have forced them to stand in endless lines at ATMs, they still believe in the “goodness” of the program. They—especially the poor living in Indian cities—think the government was right to go after India’s rich, no-gooders who have all that “black money” supposedly stashed away under mattresses.

But they are wrong. Because just 5 percent of domestic black money is held in cash and the rest in other asset classes like real estate, stocks, bullion, foreign exchange etc. Modi’s action does not hold the other 95% accountable.

Here are a few everyday occurrences happening in the Indian countryside post-demonetization, all of which are taken from the incomparable Peoples Archive of Rural India (PARI):

“In Chikalthana village… Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a cashless economy seems to have been realised. Nobody has any cash. Not the banks, nor the ATMs and certainly not the people queuing up in and around them in despair.”—P. Sainath.

“‘Demonetisation has wrecked the farmers,’ said Ramkrishna Umathe… ‘For about a week, sellers and buyers (of mainly soybean and cotton) have virtually deserted our market.’”—Jaideep Hardikar.

“After Narayanappa’s family returned to Bucharla in the first week of November, finding no work on the farms, they have had to stretch their savings to meet all expenses… the cash shortage in … Canara Bank that has shaken many families in the village is not the main concern… ‘We don’t have much money with us. All we want is some work,’ says Narayanappa.”— Rahul M.

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When I was in Mumbai in November, I spoke to a few people about notebandi. One of them was an autorickshaw driver named Dinesh Gupta, who is married with two children. He said, “Bahut acha kiya. Aage jaake, humare bachon ke liye achha hoga. ([Modi] did very well. [This program] will benefit our kids in the future.” I asked him about his family. He laughs and says, “You know, six of us, including my parents live in a one-room home in a chawl (slum). We just put a curtain in the middle of the room. On one side of the curtain I sleep with my wife and kids, and my parents sleep on the other side.”

I asked Gupta if he had a bank account. “Only in name. I took out a 1.8-lakh ($2643) loan from the State Bank of India to pay for the auto. And it is only because I needed the loan that I even have a bank account. But there is no balance in my account. Where is the money to put in it? Whatever I earn gets used up just to survive.” He makes roughly 20,000 to 25,000 rupees ($294 to 367) a month and is the sole earner in the family.

But this sense of optimism, despite graded hardships, among both upper-and lower-caste Indians is palpable only in the cities, where around 30% of the population lives. Please read the report by PARI to get an idea of the terrible impact notebandi has had in the rural areas where most Indians live.

Votebandi

At the moment Modi was declaring notebandi, liberals back in America were sure they could discern the bright light of a Clinton victory at the end of that dark talent-tunnel of America’s Got President. But it wasn’t meant to be. Liberal America’s worst nightmare was about to come true.

Now, reeling from our own November 8 votebandi, the prevailing reaction has been, understandably, to organize, protest and communicate our revulsion to Trump and all that he stands for—which, of course, is mostly himself. But we can’t let the focus of our vision and action narrow to this one man.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course I believe that we really need to fight back against this darkness. But, by concentrating only on our various Trump phobias, we let the broader slide toward catastrophe continue.

As we all know, with a Trump presidency, it is almost impossible to predict anything. And it is this unpredictability that people were/are afraid of. I agree. But, what if Clinton had won? Would you agree, given her track record, that her highly predictable itch to get this country entangled into another war was very real? Would we have been equally afraid of that?

John Pilger pointed out recently in an article titled ‘The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us,’ that “Much of America’s aggression towards the rest of humanity has come from so-called liberal Democratic administrations — such as Obama’s.” Wouldn’t a Hillary presidency have promised to be an extension of Obama’s programs—including his extremely dangerous baby, the policy of assassination-by-drones program—which inspire the loved ones of the innocent victims of our drone strikes to take revenge?

The question is not how doomed we are now, here in the darkness of the new presidency. We always were, and will continue to be, doomed, until we stop using Trump for escapist entertainment—when we get over joking about the size of his crowds or his hands and seriously take matters into our own citizen-hands. After all, we are the majority in this country.

Obsession with Trump conveniently distracts us from holding ourselves and our own inactions accountable. The time for the left to join forces and build a strong opposition against the Democratic-Republican business-as-usual machine, and the whole fucked-up system in general, was yesterday, but it’s also now.

We have to acknowledge that the domestic and foreign policy decisions taken by our past administrations—Democratic and Republican, alike—contributed to molding the hate-driven, racist version of “change” that we all have to now confront.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that the Democrats lost because of the Democrats, and our own insular focus on the ideology of “lesser evil” voting. By the way, that lesser evil ideology works both ways. A woman I know, who’s in her late 80s, said that she voted for the “lesser evil” because of Supreme Court nominations. She voted for Trump.

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When Notebandi Meets Votebandi

Coll was right in pointing out that it’s populism propping up Modi and Trump. However, it is important also to point out that their respective opposition parties—the Congress and the Democrats—were also a bunch of elites, but a different, more “liberal” kind of elite. Commonly, their elitism has always embraced supporting corporate power. And, now, as I pointed out last April, the lid’s off the petri dish and the chickens have come home to roost.

The two country’s traditional, religious (and by that I mean the white Christians in the United States and lower-caste Hindus in India), working class people, who have been drastically affected by economic trends created by elite politicians—past and present—are targeting their angst by simple projecting their leaders’ bigoted, nationalist rantings on sections of society more vulnerable than they are, with the elite in both countries too busy making money to notice.

I don’t see red (conservatism) and blue (liberalism) when I see the United States’ flag, but purple. We are living in a era of what I call conlibservatism. Where, a con-game is being played in the name of liberalism, and where only the elite are being served economically. As Paul Street correctly pointed out in a recent article, “Trump really didn’t win over working class America. Clinton lost it.” In their rhetoric, Democrats were all about the people, but in their workings, writes Street, they were all about “an ever-increasing upward distribution of income, wealth, and power into fewer hands.”

And when conlibsevatism is shaken with white religion, xenophobia, islamophobia, homophobia, narcissism, nativism, misogyny, economic exclusion, saffron ideology (orange being the color of Hindutva, or Hinduness) that makes for a deadly cocktail. “Make India Hindu Again” and “Make America White Again” are the banners now flying over our government institutions. But this is not the beginning of the history of the two countries’ capitalism-driven exclusionary agenda. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that if there is to be any chance of a meaningful recovery, it is incumbent upon us to reach back into the closets of our governments’ policies past, and acknowledge the domino effect that’s handed us Modi and Trump.

The January 21 Women’s March united people fighting on all of the political fronts that were under attack before November 8 but have since become even more urgent. The high-profile rebellion aims to persevere and grow, and will be augmented by less visible but essential actions like reaching out to the victims of a Trump administration within our own communities—the immigrant population, women, the Muslim community, those devastated by fossil-fueled floods and storms, and others. But whatever actions we take as a concerned citizenry must take into account our past inactions. Then the rest of the world will take us seriously.

There is a polite saying people use in India when asking you to accommodate an inconvenience: “Could you kindly adjust?” Those words have doubtless been heard millions of times in India’s banks and shops in the weeks since notebandi. But the crises that arose in India and America on November 8 are far more than inconveniences, and, no, please, let us not adjust to them. Let’s rebel.

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watch video showing Trump mouthing Modi’s tagline — Abki Baar Trump Sarkar (Trump Government This Time)

Recipe:

One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy, and Misfortune Stuffed Chapatis
(includes dal and stuffed chapatis)

One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy is a series that brings to our dinner tables some meals that expose the extreme consequences of neoliberal policies that are wrecking the planet, and the daily lives of many around the world. The type and quantity of each ingredient used and the presentation of a meal is determined by choosing key statistics and points that are embedded in the issue being conveyed and converting that to a measurement or meal design. Indeed, there may be a dish or two that are just outright inedible, or taste somewhat strange, with an ingredient or two out of whack. But that’s intentional.

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I happened to be in Ponce, Puerto Rico while I was working on this piece. As usually happens when I’m traveling, I find it hard to find the material, ingredients, etc I need to work on my projects, and I usually end up “kindly” adjusting to whatever is available! Which worked out quite well for this piece. Stan and I were staying in at a B&B in Ponce, and I didn’t have access to a rolling pin, so I ended up using the next best gadget I could lay my hands on in the kitchen which turned out to be a basting-brush, so I used it to roll the chapatis. And as it so happened, the white flour (chapatis are made using chapati flour), and the purple and garish saffron colored serving dishes that the B&B provided were sheer serendipity since they fit well with the flag theme of the piece.

Serves 1

For the misfortune notes
pencil
ruler
red, blue, orange, green and black fine ink pens
one 3 1/2 x 2 5/8 inch paper for making the BJP flag, and one 3 6/8 x 2 1/2 inch paper for making the confederate flag.

Make outline drawings of the two flags and ink in the colors. Add your own misfortunes. Keep aside.

For the dal
1/4 cup of a mixture of four dals — toor, moong, channa and masoor
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp haldi (turmeric powder)
salt to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/8 tsp each of rai (black mustard seeds) and zeera (cumin seeds)
2 tbsp chopped onions
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp chopped tomato
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp chopped dhania (cilantro)

Combine the dals in a saucepan and clean in running water till water runs clear. Add the water, salt and turmeric powder and bring to a boil on high flame. Turn flame down to medium-low, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, or till done. Heat oil in a skillet and add the mustard and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds start popping, add the onion and garlic. Saute till onions turn golden brown. Add the chopped tomato and chill powder. Saute for a minute, then mix in the cooked dhal to the tempering. Add dhania and turn flame off.

For the stuffed chapatis
1 cup white flour
a dash of salt
enough water to make smooth dough
a small bowl with water

Sift the flour and salt. Add water a little at a time to the flour until a smooth dough forms. Divide in half and shape into balls. Take one ball and roll flat with a rolling pin into about an 8-inch round. Heat a skillet and cook for about thirty seconds on each side. Remove from skillet, and dipping your index finger into the bowl with water, quickly wet along one half of the rim of the chapati. Place one of the misfortune flags close to the middle of circle, and fold into a semicircle, pressing till the edge is sealed. Return the chapati to the skillet and using a little oil on both sides, finish cooking till brown and done. Repeat for he other chapati. Serve with dal.

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Kashmir: Now You Don’t See Me, Now You Don’t

See also at: Countercurrents, CounterPunch

JatiIndia: A Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future

An interview with MuslimPress

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Why did you choose the name “JatiIndia” for your work? What’s the significance of this name?

Inequality exists in societies all across the globe. Designed by Brahmanism (which came before Hinduism), the caste system is a uniquely cruel and immutable version of this phenomenon because it has been conveniently sanctioned by the Hindu religion.

The Indian word for caste is jati, the roots of which an be traced to Hinduism’s four-varna system or varnashrama dharma as prescribed by Hindu scripture, and structured in an hierarchy of occupations with the brahmins on the top, followed by kshatriyas, vaishyas, and shudras — in that order.

Outside of this system, you will find the country’s Adivasis, India’s original inhabitants, its indigenous communities; as well as Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) — literally meaning broken, crushed people — who today are low-paid farm hands and contract laborers.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar described the workings of the caste system best when he said that it “is not merely a division of labor. It is also a division of laborers.” Himself a Dalit, Ambedkar (1891-1956) was the principal architect of the Indian Constitution, and his main focus was the emancipation of his Dalit brothers and sisters.

Over the millennia, within the four-varna system there proliferated thousands of castes and subcastes, or jatis. They are intended to be distinct gene pools, with intercaste marriage frowned upon. Caste now burdens not only the Hindu population. It has proliferated throughout India’s cultural as well as biological DNA, even into the country’s practice of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Sikhism. Each community has its own specific norms, all of which employ caste-style hierarchies of their own.

There would be no functioning—or shall we say dysfunctioning—India without this worst form of social exclusion in the world. So I thought why not just come right out and prefix jati to India and call it JatiIndia, i.e., the land of jatis. After all, jati/caste fundamentalism not only has survived in modern times, it is thriving more than ever under technologically sophisticated, neo-liberal fundamentalism.

People in the West like to think of India as this great land of psychedelic spirituality that introduced Gandhi and the spirit of non-violence to the world. That’s such a farce because the country’s own backyard is a landscape littered with systemic cultural violence.

I think of the caste system as a kind of racism pumped up on religio-capitalist steroids. Hence, the title for this series, JatiIndia.

How did you decide to create this piece?

The murder of Rohith Vemula prompted this series. Rohith was the 26-year-old son of a landless Dalit mother who hanged himself in a student hostel room on January 17th, 2016. Many in India have referred to his death as murder, because it encapsulates the continuing struggle confronting a cross-section of the country’s oppressed.

According to writer and democratic-rights activist Anand Teltumbde, “The reason [for suicides of Dalit scholars (like Rohith) driven by caste atrocities] can be traced to the social Darwinist ethos of neoliberalism which reversed the welfarist paradigm created by Keynesian economics. Its social implications contra-intuitively resonate with the upsurge of Hindutva forces in the country, evidenced by the BJP’s rise from a marginal position in the 1980s to be the contender for political power at the center….The strategy of the Hindutva camp is to brahmanize common folks of the dalits and to demonize the radical dalits. As dissenting Muslim youth are branded terrorist, dalit-adivasi youth are being stamped as extremists, casteist and anti-nationals.”

The generic title for this series is JatiIndia: A Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future. And each issue addressed within this series has its own subheading.

The work attempts to bring forward some of the targeted faces of resistance who have challenged the stagnant ideology of exclusion in India (often referred to as “the world’s largest democracy” but in my mind the world’s largest hypocrisy): Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Christians, occupied Kashmiris, India’s northeasterners, and others who have been caught for ages between the old and the ever-mutating new—between the dogmas of religious scripture and the terrorism of the state.

The forces of these dogmas have usurped not only the souls and the humanity of so, so many people, but also their land, their rivers, their mountains, their livelihoods from under their feet. Biodiversity has been replaced with exploitation diversity.

In conjunction with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit in Washington with President Barack Obama in September 2014, the Washington Post published a jointly written opinion piece by the two world leaders titled A renewed U.S.-India partnership for the 21st century. Here’s part of what they had to say: “We will discuss ways in which our businesses, scientists and governments can partner as India works to improve the quality, reliability and availability of basic services….An immediate area of concrete support is the ‘Clean India’ campaign, where we will leverage private and civil society innovation, expertise and technology to improve sanitation and hygiene throughout India….Forward together we go — chalein saath saath.” Really? All that’s good, but shouldn’t Jatiindia first flush out the systemic and centuries-old clogged up caste system and its ensuing atrocities before the two country’s elites can move “forward saath saath”?

This is what Ambedkar, author of Annihilation of Caste, was talking about when he said that caste is “not merely a division of labor. It is also a division of laborers.” In India, bais (housemaids), who, besides sweeping and swabbing upper-caste homes also clean the toilets seven days a week. Most of them don’t have a toilet in their own one-room homes, but have a common one that many families share. I asked one such toilet-cleaning bai, “Who comes to clean the toilets in the chawl (slum) where you live?” She replied, “The bhangi (manual sewage scavenger).” There is a very tightly organized hierarchy of filth. An upper-caste-led “Clean India” campaign for the 21st century is doomed without the annihilation of caste itself and the end of the ideology of layering servants upon servants upon servants.

What does each color that you used in the flag symbolize?

The orange of the top bar symbolizes long-existing casteism, now made more open and feverish by resurgent Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) politics. Blue—a color historically adopted by the Dalit movement—here honors all of India’s oppressed people, including the occupied people of Kashmir. The bottom green bar symbolizes India’s ecological foundations, which are endangered by the ideology of neoliberalism and defended by our Adivasis and other oppressed people, including Kashmiris. The circular image (which I put in its usual place in the center of the flag in earlier versions) is positioned equally over the blue and green bars to signify a target viewed through a weapon’s saffron crosshairs.

This latest in my series, titled Now You Don’t See Me, Now You Don’t, is about the Indian occupation of Kashmir. The three pen & ink drawings that accompany this work includes a portrait of Afzal Guru’s wife and son represented as JatiIndia: A Flag of Atrocities Caste, a portrait of a pellet gun victim represented as JatiIndia….Present, and the blank crosshairs image as Future.

How do you see the situation in Kashmir?

It’s similar in a sense to the situation in Palestine, arising as it does from an arbitrary partition of territory by colonial powers. But it’s different in that most people know very little about Kashmir, while much more has been said and written about Palestine over the past half-century. As Amy Goodman of Democracy Now commented back in March 2010, “Most people here [people in the West] know it as a sweater. That’s what they think of when they hear ‘Kashmir.’” That’s how far away the plight of Kashmiris is from the conscience of the so-called “international community.”

The push for self-determination in Kashmir goes back, in fact, to the same time period as the creation of Israel, to 1947, India’s independence from British rule, and the subsequent partition of India and Pakistan. Following the partition, a plebiscite was supposed to be held to determine the fate of Jammu and Kashmir. That never happened, and things snowballed from there.

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza. Norman Finkelstein said recently, “Roughly speaking, two and a half generations of Israelis have lived with…. [and] at this point has been an active participation in a quiet brutal occupation.” As we all know, some of that desensitization of a population that Finkelstein is talking about has something to do with the fact that service in the IDF is mandatory for every Israeli citizen 18 years and older (with some exceptions).

On the other hand, upper-caste Indians’ occupation of the hearts, hands, minds, bodies, lands, waters, of some of their own people — Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and others, goes back many, many generations, and so does their desensitization which manifests itself in the form of absolute silence, to the inherently atrocious workings of the state machinery and the Indian population in general.

The military occupation of Kashmir, like the Israeli occupation of Palestine, translates to the active participation of the occupying population keeping silent on atrocities being committed on a daily basis by “security” forces, and the use of various forms of collective punishment.

Many refer to the summer of 2010 as the Kashmiri Intifada, with the sang-bazan (stone-pelters) storming the streets of Srinagar.

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How has the government affected the daily lives of the Kashmiri people?

Stuck between a rock and a hard place — nuclear-powered India and nuclear-powered Pakistan — Indian-administered Kashmir (Kashmir, Jammu, Ladakh) is the most densely militarized zone in the world.

The fight turned into an armed struggle in the early 90s. In a 1994 resolution, Kashmir was declared an ‘integral part’ of India. Since then the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley with a population of over 12,500,000 has been saturated with close to 700,000 military and paramilitary forces (one state-armed person for every seventeen Kashmiris) dictating law and order and thereby controlling every movement of every Kashmiri.

India’s objective is to integrate the region into its territory by any means possible. According to Buried Evidence, a report put out by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir, the tactics of integration include “the domestication of Kashmiri people through the selective use of discipline and death as regulatory mechanisms. Discipline is affected through military presence, surveillance, punishment and fear. Death is disbursed through ‘extra-judicial’ means, and those authorized by law….Official state discourse conflates cross-border militancy with present nonviolent struggles by local Kashmiri groups for political and territorial self-determination, portraying local resistance as “terrorist” activity.

The report further states that, “In Kashmir, between 1989-2009, the actions of the military and para-military forces have resulted in [more than] 8,000 enforced disappearances and [more than] 70,000 deaths, including through extra-judicial or ‘fake-encounter’ executions, custodial brutality, and other means. [The report also documents] 2,700 unknown, unmarked, and mass graves containing [more than] 2,943 bodies, across 55 villages in Bandipora, Baramulla, and Kupwara districts of Kashmir.”

The years 2002/2003 witnessed a crushing of the armed rebellion in Kashmir. But what remained, among other horrors, was the Indian Parliament’s draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the Public Safety Act (PSA), streets lined with heavily armed soldiers, traffic policemen with AK 47s, armored vehicles, mass rapes, torture centers, economic and social hardships, arbitrary detentions, hospitals overcrowded with patients suffering from multiple bullet wounds, many teenagers among dead and severely wounded, psychological problems, graveyards crowded with victims of conflict, shutdowns of the internet and mobile services, and the crackdown on newspapers.

What replaced the armed insurgency was a less violent form of rebellion. Many incidents sparked fresh non-violent mass protests in the region, including thousands of protesters taking to the streets in mid-2008 when the government decided to grant 100 acres of land to the Hindu shrine of Shri Amaranth in the Kashmir Himalayas; then an incident in May 2009 when two young women were found dead in Sophian, south Srinagar, their families alleging that that they had been abducted, raped and murdered by troops; the January 2010 killing of a schoolboy in Srinagar by Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers; and the April killing of three innocent civilians in Machil by the Indian Army. Each killing triggered more protests, triggering more killings. The cycle has continued. During these protests, many thousands of stone pelters have taken to the streets, with security forces answering back with gunfire.

Does the situation in Kashmir receive enough media attention?

The latest uprising was sparked by the killing of 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8th this year. Scores of people have since been killed and hundreds of others maimed, disfigured, and blinded by pellet guns, an innovation introduced by the Indian Army as a “non-lethal” crowd-control measure. The mainstream media has not given this kind of news the attention it deserves.

All along, the media have been silent about the atrocities the Indian military has inflicted on the people of Kashmir. Unlike other issues (such as the ongoing conflict in Manipur, on which the media are completely silent), this conflict has attracted a lot of media. But the reports are all hogwash. Real Kashmiris have no presence in the Indian media.

Take the case of Afzal Guru who was the main suspect in the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. He was an innocent Kashmiri hanged for a crime he did not commit.

Arundhati Roy wrote, “A fresh media campaign began…. ‘Afzal Guru was one of the terrorists who stormed parliament house on 13 December 2001. He was the first to open fire on security personnel, apparently killing three of the six who died.’ Even the police charge sheet did not accuse Afzal of that. The supreme court judgment acknowledged the evidence was circumstantial: ‘As is the case with most conspiracies, there is and could be no evidence amounting to criminal conspiracy.’ But then, shockingly, it went on to say: ‘The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.’”

And the media lies continue today.

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What do you see as the major force behind these conflicts?

The people of Kashmir have demonstrated time and time again that they want nothing short of Azadi (freedom) from occupation. That’s what they’re fearlessly running toward, stones in hand, in the crosshairs of the Indian security forces, chanting “Hum Kya Chahte (What do we want)? Azadi (Freedom).”

President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal

See also at: CounterPunch, Countercurrents, GlobalResearch, Eye Art Collective

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Man, I dream of just being able to paint. Go to sleep when I want, get up when I want, eat when I want. Try to enjoy what’s left for me. Talk to the little children—be an elder for my people.—Leonard Peltier, United States Penitentiary, Coleman I in Florida, July 4, 2016.

This is not a good time to be black in America, and not just because of people walking while black, driving while black, running while black, breathing while black, but because of all the hells that people suffer all across America. The truth of the matter is, it ain’t gettin’ sweeter. It ain’t getting better.—Mumia Abu-Jamal, October 07, 2016, SCI Mahanoy state prison, Frackville, Pennsylvania.

Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal have been unjustly imprisoned for decades, and their last chances for freedom will come in the six weeks between the November 8 election and the inauguration of the next president on January 20. During that interval, President Barack Obama will himself be totally free. With no political pressures to worry about, he can do something that should have been done long ago: liberate these two men.

In June 1975, during a confrontation on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Oglala, South Dakota that involved members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), two FBI agents were shot dead. In 1977, Leonard Peltier, an Anishinabe-Lakota American Indian, grandfather, painter, writer, and a member of the AIM was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for their murders. This, despite the fact that there was zero proof that he did it, and ample proof that the authorities manufactured evidence against him.

Radio journalist, writer, and former Black Panther Party member Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted and sentenced to death in July 1982 for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. The incident took place on December 9, 1981, and he has maintained his innocence since. He has spent most of the ensuing 34 years in solitary confinement on Pennsylvania’s Death Row. In 2001, a federal judge ordered that his death sentence be overturned, and after losing many appeals of that order, on December 7, 2011, Philadelphia District Attorney made the announcement that he was giving up on restoring Mumia’s death sentence. He is now commuted to life imprisonment without parole.

Both Peltier and Mumia have health problems. Among other ailments, Peltier suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, prostate issues and a heart condition. An affiliate of Physicians for Human Rights has said, “Peltier risks blindness, kidney failure, stroke and premature death, given his inadequate diet, living conditions and health care.” In late 2015, he was diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm that requires surgery, which is being denied him. If the aneurysm decides to rupture, he will die within minutes.

In late August this year, a federal judge denied a request from Mumia for life-saving medication that could cure his hepatitis C. Mumia’s lawyers refiled a case against the Hepatitis C Care Committee and against the DOC officials. This denial remains in effect despite having been declared unconstitutional. Mumia has said that the protocol constitutes “deliberate indifference to the medical needs of at least 6,000 people in Pennsylvania prisons.”

As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.—words of Christopher Columbus taken from Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States.

Since that fateful day in October, 1492, when the discovered glistening gold ornaments on the ears of the Arawak Indians lit up the colonist’s eyes, many, many people of color in these, the robbed-again United States of America, have been systematically annihilated, afflicted with diseased blankets, enslaved, lynched, whipped, raped, dispossessed, imprisoned, deported, shot by the police, dehumanized, you name it. All this to keep the white elite extractive mechanism going, and going, and going, until one day, no doubt, it will be all gone.

Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal are just the latest in a long line of victims of a cultural genocide and a black oppression agenda that goes back 500 years, with no signs of stopping.

All of the riches and finite resources in far off places like Iraq, and right here in this occupied land of gold, “bed, bath and beyond” have yet to be sucked dry. Meanwhile, today, the battle in Mosul rages on; in this country, one in three black men, and one in six Latino men can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetime.

Having spent 41 years and 34 years behind bars simply for resisting empire, Peltier and Mumia are perhaps our last living link between the dark past and equally dark future. Their stories, their geography, their art, their words, their ailing bodies, their eyes, today, serve as an atlas of the genocidal and racist white settler history of this country.

How can America heal from this? By acknowledging the wrong that has been done to Peltier and Mumia and setting them free would be a start. Or is the government too afraid to disturb the sleeping giant of deception and atrocities on which this country was founded, fearing the long reparations list that might unfurl all the way to the moon? If that’s the case, then it’s business-as-usual, as always, before one day when it will all come tumbling down with its own weight.

Meanwhile, here’s a window into Peltier’s thoughts…..

Like so many Native children, I was ripped away from my family at the age of 9 or so and taken away to get the “Indian” out of me at a boarding school. At that time, Native Peoples were not able to speak our own languages for fear of being beaten or worse. Our men’s long hair, which is an important part of our spiritual life, was forcibly cut off in an effort to shame us. Our traditional names were replaced by new European-American names. These efforts to force our assimilation continue today. Not long ago, I remember, a Menominee girl was punished and banned from playing on the school’s basketball team because she taught a classmate how to say “hello” and “I love you” in her Native language. We hear stories all the time about athletes and graduates who face opposition to wearing their hair long or having a feather in their cap.

I’m 71 years old and still in a maximum security penitentiary. At my age, I’m not sure I have much time left….when I was indicted the average time served on a life sentence before being given parole was 7 years. So that means I’ve served nearly 6 life sentences and I should have been released on parole a very long time ago. Then there’s mandatory release after serving 30 years. I’m 10 years past that. The government isn’t supposed to change the laws to keep you in prison — EXCEPT if you’re Leonard Peltier, it seems. Now, I’m told I’ll be kept at USP Coleman I until 2017 when they’ll decide if I can go to a medium security facility — or NOT.

As the last remaining months of President Obama’s term pass by, my anxiety increases. I believe that this president is my last hope for freedom, and I will surely die here if I am not released by January 20, 2017.

….and into Mumia’s thoughts:

It is a tragedy that we’re now counting down the days of the first African American—accent on African—president in the history of the United States. And when he leaves you will still have the greatest incarcerator [the United States] on earth at work, and growing and continuing to divest and destroy and diminish the lives of millions of people. The fact that you could have a black president and not put a dent in that hellhole is startling.

[Obama] went into a prison that was empty. Because all of the prisoners were emptied from the cells. So, he walked into a prison block. Yes, that’s true, and it’s historic [Obama is the first sitting president to walk into a prison block]. But it’s also true that he walked in an empty prison block. If you have the greatest incarceration on earth in this nation, then, you know, why don’t you make history by creating empty cells? By freeing people.

It’s been fifty unbelievable years, since Huey and Bobby typed out the ten-point program and platform of the Black Panther Party for self defense. How many times in the last fifty years have you reread the ten-point program and marveled at how grim the conditions still facing millions of black people remain. Half a century, and black life still don’t matter.

You have to admit against your better judgement, perhaps. But it’s damn good entertainment [on the current electoral debacle], and it’s unbelievable. I mean this is the ultimate reality show. It’s so real, it’s unreal. I think it reflects clearer than anything we could have imagined—the fall of empire. This is how democracies fall. History repeats itself. First time it’s tragedy. Second time it’s farce. So, it’s interesting. It’s entertaining. It’s unbelievable. Yet, here we are.”

Yes. Here we are. Everything has been white-washed, including America’s first black president. Behold the irony, for he holds the pen that the white man has thrust in his hand after deeming him worthy of the White House. The question is, does Obama have the courage to finally grant Peltier and Mumia clemency, not only because he can but because it’s right?

(I understand that it’s not in president Obama’s hands to pardon Mumia Abu-Jamal since he is a state prisoner. But, it is incumbent upon president Obama to at least try and urge Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania to pardon him.)

Yes You Can, President Obama, Yes You Can!

Please visit WhoIsLeonardPeltier.Info to learn more about Leonard Peltier, and here to look at his art. Please visit FreeMumia.com to learn more about Mumia Abu-Jamal, and to PRISON RADIO to listen to Mumia’s broadcast from prison.

Unfinished Portrait: Tracking the Footsteps of a Post-9/11 World

See Also at: CountercurrentsEYEZINEMuslimpress, ANTIWAR, Michigan Standard

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If Carter and Reagan hadn’t funded the Mujahideen, there would have been no Taliban. And if there had been no oil in Kuwait, there would have been no 1991 US-Iraq Gulf War. If there had been no first US-Iraq war, American troops would not have been stationed in Saudi Arabia. If no American troops had been sent to Saudi Arabia, then Osama Bin Laden would have remained just another rich guy. If there had been no Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and if Bin Laden had been just another rich guy, there would have been no 9/11. If there had been no 9/11 sentiment to exploit and if Iraq had no oil, America would not have invaded Iraq in 2003 and there would be no ISIS. If there were no ISIS….well, you know the rest.

Unfinished Portrait is a project in perpetuity, tracking the footsteps of our post- 9/11, post-Iraq War world.

I began work on the project in 2005. And, today, eleven years later, the content and execution of this work has evolved, much like the illegal wars of Iraq and Afghanistan have themselves evolved, you might say.

The challenge for me, as an artist, has been how best to communicate the tragedy on all sides of these wars, and for audiences to get a sense of how many innocent people we’ve killed; to fill the artificial void between “us” and “them”; to create a space in which people can see the human toll and connect with both the invader victims and the invaded victims; to swallow the reality that there are no heroes here, only victims; and most importantly, to walk away with a question: can we honestly have the audacity to “feel safer” after all this?

Unfinished Portrait: Iraq

In February 2008, on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, I installed Unfinished Portrait in a 35-by-45-foot room of a former paper company’s warehouse in Salina, Kansas, where I live. The walls, columns and ceiling of that room were painted black. Hanging on one of the black walls were twenty-five, one-by-one-foot wood panels painted in acrylic gouache with passport-size portraits of the first 3000 American troops who had died in Iraq. Some of those panels also included passport-size camouflage squares scattered here and there, representing troops and veterans who had committed suicide. The black area symbolized the Iraqi dead, who, because of their vast numbers and the lack of photographs, could not be memorialized individually. Had it been possible to cover the black walls, columns and ceiling with passport-sized painted faces of Iraqis, it would have portrayed approximately 375,000 of the people who had died as a result of the war; the number of dead was actually much larger. A plaque on the wall explained these numbers.

image-1Unfinished Portrait: Iraq, 2008. The 35-by-45-foot room with painted portraits of fallen soldiers hanging on one of the black walls.

The floor was covered with a thick layer of sand, which by the end of the four-week exhibit was covered with viewers’ footprints. A looping piece of music, Mecca by artist Sheila Chandra, played in the background. The Urdu chorus translates as: At this moment we are in a sea of sentiment, and there is no shore in site.

I would say that maybe 10 percent of the people who viewed that 2008 exhibit reacted to the black walls that symbolized the Iraqis. Visible proof of that lay in the footprints, almost all of which went directly to the painted portraits of fallen soldiers, not to the vast black wallspace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn example of one of the 12-by-12-inch panels painted in four desert camouflage colors. Each panel has 120 faces of U.S. soldiers killed in action.

One could ask, “Well, why would anyone bother walking to a wall that was simply painted black?” Maybe some viewers felt that just being surrounded by the blackness was enough to get a sense of the disproportionate contrast between the American losses and the Iraqi losses. But in the many interactions I had with people who were there, almost everybody commented only on the painted portraits. And almost no one said anything about what that war has done to the country of Iraq and to her people. The work was largely treated as nothing more than a tribute to the U.S. troops, and, by implication, to their mission and actions. But that’s not how I had meant it.

I do recall one comment from an Iraq veteran to the effect that by juxtaposing the 5-by-5-foot area occupied by US portraits with the vast wall and ceiling space that represented the Iraqis, I was belittling the Americans’ sacrifice.  And I said to myself, at least someone gets it! Not that he was right about my intentions toward the troops, but he at least acknowledged that he was disturbed by the contrast between the magnitudes of their losses and ours.

When that first show ended in March, 2008, I tucked the painted portraits away in a corner of my basement for four years—frustrated that I had gotten through to so few people.

Unfinished Portrait: Iraq and Afghanistan

Early in 2012, I decided to re-create and expand the project, adding the victims of the Afghanistan war. I replaced Mecca with a 45-minute spoken-word performance, and I had scattered among the American faces an increasing number of camouflage squares representing the tragic new face of these wars: rapidly increasing suicides among combatants and veterans. Since 2001, the suicide rate among veterans has increased by nearly a third, with an average of 20 veteran suicides occurring per day in 2014.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACamouflage squares representing veteran suicides.

I moved this new exhibit to an outdoor setting, with the spoken-word performances occurring after sunset, with the paintings and the readers facing the audience to the west. As darkness fell, the portraits faded from view, and four performers read from a script based on reports of the wars’ horrors, the blackness rising in the eastern sky served as a backdrop representing the hundreds of thousands of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan who have died.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnfinished Portrait: Iraq and Afghanistan, 2012….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA….with the performance occurring after sunset.

This more conceptual approach—using the sky to commemorate the Iraqi and Afghan deaths—elicited almost no response from the audience. Another failure, to say the least.

Meanwhile, the “war on terror” has spilled further, across the border with Afghanistan into Pakistan. The Obama administration is coming up with new techniques on recruiting many more enemies for America through the unmanned drone program and obsessive spying, and I’m back to the gestural drawing board.

Unfinished Portrait: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan

In 2013, I decided to illustrate the Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani deaths not with vast stretches of blackness but by doing almost the reverse: squeezing the victims’ images into a physical space the same size as that used to portray the American losses. Doing so meant reaching back a century and a half to incorporate a second painting style into the work.

I adopted a variant of pointillism—a technique pioneered by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac in the nineteenth century—to portray the deaths of the invaded. With the American portraits now covering thirty-nine panels, each one-by-one-foot, painted with 120 faces, I produced additional thirty-eight panels to represent Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani deaths. On each panel I painted precisely 8,836 tiny dots, using the same set of four desert-camouflage colors I’d used for the other portraits. One panel in the center of the work showed all – portraits of fallen soldiers, suicides, Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani deaths, merging as one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnfinished Portrait: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, 2013. One of the thirty-eight panels painted with dots representing faces of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani children (the tiniest dots you see), women, and men who have died in these wars. Together, these panels represent 335,768 faces

The work now had seventy-eight panels representing the first 344,926 people who died in these wars. According to the ‘Costs of War’ project based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, more than 6,800 American service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at least 370,000 people have been killed by violence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Many more people have also died indirectly from the wars as a result of crumbling infrastructure, destruction of hospitals and environmental contamination.

In the work as it now stands, it is easy to spot the faces widely lauded as heroes; those portrayed in pure camouflage who, having taken their own lives, are regarded by the world’s largest military as an embarrassment; and those existing as tiny points of paint, whose faces are known only to family and friends—the invaded who died fighting the invaders, or as police, or journalists, or humanitarian workers, or an Iraqi child, or an Afghan woman out fetching water who was killed by a “precision” strike, or a U.S. contractor earning a paycheck, or Bibi Mamana, the grandmother of eight-year-old Nabeela, who on October 24, 2012 was picking okra and gathering wood for Eid Al Adha before she was “literally hit flush and blown to smithereens” in a drone strike in Waziristan, Pakistan.

Viewed from a distance, everything blends together – all victims, all far away, faceless, uncountable, beyond our imagination, like Seurat’s points of paint. The piece is intended, you might say, as pointillism with a point.

One of the spaces I installed this version of Unfinished Portrait was at the 555 Gallery in Detroit, Michigan. At that time, the gallery was located in the Detroit Police Department’s former Third Precinct station. The work was installed in four jail cells, and the performance took place in front of the cells.

It was pure chance that the available space for the exhibit was in jail cells, but it turned out to be symbolic. The faces of the innocent people of all colors killed or imprisoned during our 21st-century wars are mirrored in the faces of the countless Americans needlessly imprisoned, whether in the local county jail or on death row.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnfinished Portrait: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, 2013, 555 gallery jail cells, Detroit, Michigan.

Unfinished Portrait: Made in the U.S.A

Most people in the United States think of our troops who are “fighting terrorism” as heroes. There is a great line in a song Hoobaale by the Somali-Canadian poet, singer, songwriter K’naan….How can they go to war with terror when it’s war that’s terrorizin’. Terror is terror, whether the objective is Al Qaeda-sponsored, for example, or sponsored by a rich, powerful state; either way, the victims on both sides are mostly innocent civilians.

According to the Costs of War project, “the US invasion of Iraq has turned the country into a laboratory in which militant groups such as Islamic State have been able to hone their techniques of recruitment and violence. The formation of jihadi groups now spreading throughout the region counts among the many human costs of that war.”

People living in war zones have been killed violently by the United States, its allies, insurgents and sectarians alike. Through the years, Unfinished Portrait has stayed consistent in attempting to document the human costs of these wars, irrespective of who does the killing, and how they die.

The next phase of this project will be updated to include victims of drone strikes and other covert operations in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan, as well as victims of international airstrikes in Iraq, Syria and Libya, and the victims of ISIS and other groups. I’m calling it Made in the U.S.A because while we exploit labour in places like China and Bangladesh to produce all the hundreds and thousands of junk products we consume, the one thing that is made here in the “great again U.S. of A.” is indiscriminate killings in the hundreds of thousands.

Now, thanks to dedicated people documenting more names, faces, and other details of Pakistani, Afghan and other non-U.S. citizen victims, I am able to include at least some of them in the work. So I hope that by October 7, 2017, the 16th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, I will have an updated version of Unfinished Portrait in which people will be able to read the names and look into the faces of Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Syrians and others. How people will react to this new work? We will have to wait and see.

In these eleven years since I first began work on this project, only Sheila Chandra’s words have stayed consistent: Is waqt hum jazbaat ke sagar mein hain aur sahilon ka kahin patta nahin. Is waqt hum….